The 30th Annual E. F. Schumacher Lectures on November 20th brought together three strong voices calling for change in our economic system and outlining strategies for that change. It was a remarkable gathering. With appreciation to Peter Montague, the talks by Gus Speth, Neva Goodwin, and Stewart Wallis may now be viewed online.
In his introductory remarks Will Raap described the objectives of the convening organization:
The purpose of the Schumacher Center is to develop, research, and help implement systemic solutions to a series of systemic problems that now face humanity. These include:
* The sustainability, climate, and dwindling resources crisis;
* The equality crisis, here and around the world, in income, assets, access, and democracy;
* The financial risk crisis of a system that is neither efficient nor resilient;
* The well-being crisis, in which rising income is not translating into rising happiness.
Many and various approaches to these crises are emerging, but they are often not systemic. Nor are they being pulled together into a compelling and coherent narrative. The task of the Schumacher Center is to provide this narrative as well as the missing intellectual support for major system change – to collect and link together the solutions that are emerging and to research and develop solutions where they are not.
To achieve its goals the Schumacher Center works closely with the New Economics Foundation of London, employing NEF’s expertise, techniques, and experience and in the process challenging mainstream thinking on economic, environment, and social issues.
A new economics, one that values people and nature at least as much as production and consumption, is possible only through transformation of our values, politics, education, business, and culture. Leading in this process of transformation requires integrative thinking, combining what is and what might be, the pragmatic and the philosophical, the worst case and the hopeful.
Thomas Berry, priest, cultural historian and “Earth scholar” was such a leader. Berry regularly quoted Chief Seattle in introducing his own work:
This we know: The Earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the Earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.
E. F. Schumacher, an internationally influential economist in Britain and author of the best selling Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered, was also such a thinker. He said,
Infinite growth of material consumption in a finite world is an impossibility.
Forty years ago Schumacher made the radical proposal that we should sacrifice economic growth to improve quality of life. He proposed a system of regional economies based on social and ecological principles. He also predicted the impending global fuel crisis.
Today’s speakers provide integrative thinking in the lineage of Berry and Schumacher.
In their talks Gus Speth, Neva Goodwin, and Stewart Wallis—all board members of the Center—outlined what is a collective agenda for the organization. It will take a new level of funding to implement that agenda. The Center’s board of directors needs your help to meet its budget objectives. There is hard work ahead, but it can be fun, and it rests on the shoulders of all of us to succeed.